Stephen Lane is the founder of Prop Store, one of the world’s leading vendors of original film props and costumes. With two offices–one in London and the other in Los Angeles–Prop Store has been a steady player in the memorabilia industry for the past two decades. Since 2015, Prop Store has expanded its services to include online and live auctions and has rolled out some impressive events, such as the Rick Baker, Greg Cannom, and Phil Tippett auctions. The company has also handled auction for iconic properties like Breaking Bad, The Twilight Saga, Ender’s Game, Hannibal, Dexter, G.I. Joe, to name a few. Prop Store’s current offering is the Penny Dreadful Auction, which has been running online since March 15 and ends March 31. Its next auction is the T2 Transpotting Auction, which runs from April 10 to April 21.
As Prop Store’s chief executive, Stephen Lane became interested in movie memorabilia while his previous sign-making company was working as a contractor on the sets of Eyes Wide Shut. Stephen began networking with industry technicians and found his first few treasures, which led him to pursue Prop Store as a full time business. At that time, no one in the UK was selling this type of memorabilia as a full-time operation. Since 1998, Stephen has guided Prop Store to become a leader in this vibrant field, a “pop-culture hybrid of fine art and memorabilia collecting–prop art.” Its evolution from online retailer to a formidable auction house with international reaches and a massive 25,000 combined square feet of archived props and costumes, while also establishing archival standards for prop and costumes, has positioned Prop Store to be the leader in this exciting field for years to come.
Moreover, Stephen’s personal collection of props and costumes ranks among the finest in the world. Stephen graciously took the time to engage in our new feature, “Ten Questions With…” where renowned members of the memorabilia and collectibles industry field ten questions relating to collecting pop culture and entertainment memorabilia.
This is the debut of “Ten Questions With…” and we couldn’t be happier with Stephen’s candidness and insights, which remains unabridged and unedited. Enjoy!
- What is your opinion of the memorabilia market right now?
Incredibly healthy and buoyant. We’re seeing a constant stream of new collectors enter the market place as they become aware of this fascinating hobby through social media and the very active marketing campaigns Prop Store are constantly running. A number of the artefacts we sold in last year’s Entertainment Memorabilia Auction set new world records with many of those items going to brand new customers. The level of auction registrations has increased year on year, a true reflection of the excitement this hobby is generating.
- What is the long-term health of the collectibles/memorabilia market?
I believe that this market place is still in its infancy, just the tip of the iceberg. I expect continual growth over the next 10 – 20 years. We’ve seen raised levels of interest and awareness in Pop Culture across the board over the past few years, a voluminous and constant influx of new collectors coming into the market (at all tiers of the hobby) and increased availability through the stream of online auctions we launch every month and our bi- annual Live Auctions in London and Los Angeles. In essence the barriers for collectors to enter this market are the lowest they’ve ever been which in turn is creating huge amount of activity. New and seasoned collectors will continue to hone their collecting preferences over a number of years, as their tastes become more refined they generally make more acquisitions on higher priced artefacts driven through nostalgia. So in essence, a large proportion of the activity at entry level now will roll into much larger spend values in the years ahead.
- Will memorabilia remain a niche hobby or could it get to the mainstream and achieve its own category, for example, in the insurance industry like fine art has?
I believe that we’re already well on our way there for many of the reasons mentioned previously. In addition, we now have a bonded harmonisation code (customs entry code for goods imported to and exported from the UK) specifically for Film and Entertainment Memorabilia which took us over a year to negotiate with HMRC (Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs) and we’re often asked to provide estimates of value for insurance companies as they’re more regularly being asked to cover these artefacts. We’re all seeing more frequent mainstream media coverage and even references to this hobby within the very Pop Culture shows we collect from!
- Many important film props and costumes have already made their way to auction. What is still out there that you would like to see come to the surface?
We’re constantly on a mission to track down artefacts from the films of yesteryear and admittedly these becoming harder to find from source. That said we never know what the next phone call or email will bring – from James Bond’s PPK to Jack Nicholson’s jacket from The Shinning, the great stuff keeps on appearing!
- Going forward, what do you see from the last 5 to 10 years that you think will be important in, say, 5 to 10 years from now?
I think the answer to that question can be pretty subjective – in the eye of the beholder so to speak. Our mantra has always been ‘buy what you love — to the top of your budget’. This hopefully ensures that you end up with something that you’re really passionate about and will enjoy the pleasure of owning. By buying at the top of your budget it means that you’ll secure something that is more likely to have appeal to others. If it resonates with other collectors the way that it resonated with you then it will be just as ‘important’ to them in years to come.
- What is currently on Prop Store’s plate in terms of auctions?
Right now we have our Penny Dreadful auction underway, that’s followed closely by Trainspotting 2. Then onto a Star Wars and Star Trek blueprint auction, then Terminator Genisys followed closely by a bunch of other exciting titles throughout the year.
- What does Prop Store have in the works that we will see later this year?
We’re exhibiting at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando in a few weeks’ time. This will give visitors an opportunity to buy Star Wars artefacts in person at fixed price at the show and it will also be the first ‘sneak preview’ of a handful of the really exciting items that we have in for this year’s London Live Auction. We move onto San Diego Comic Con in July and then the three week Live Auction preview exhibition will open in the run up to the main event in London in the last quarter. It’s going to be another extremely busy and exciting year.
- What could we expect from Prop Store beyond 2017?
We are planning numerous landmark events in 2018 and beyond. We’ll strive to continue raising the bar in our hobby and bring to market the artefacts that collectors aspire to own.
- Will you be maintaining a Los Angeles and London office? Any plans for further expansion?
We’ve just moved and upgraded the L.A. facility to a substantial new 20,000 square foot operation in Valencia, which is already buzzing with activity. This incredible space will provide an exhibition gallery and store experience within a working warehouse and office environment. The London site is currently undergoing a major expansion and re vamp which has been underway for the last 8 months and will likely continue into 2018.
- What is your favorite item in your personal collection?
That’s a tough question to answer! As you know I’m a major Star Wars fan and as I’ve been collecting Star Wars items for some 25 years I’ve managed to put together a reasonably comprehensive collection. One of my favourite recent acquisitions is the Tusken Raider mask from A New Hope. It was worn by actor Peter Diamond when he attacked Luke Skywalker up on the ridge. The imagery for that famous scene was one that appeared on trading cards, action figures and posters. It was a quintessential moment in my childhood. Owning these items never fails to thrill me.
(Photos courtesy of Stephen Lane/Prop Store)